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Italy's ENI, Enel Bought Yukos Assets

Italian energy firms Eni and Enel won a $5.8bn auction for assets

Italian energy firms Eni and Enel won a $5.8bn auction for assets formely held by bankrupt oil firm Yukos yesterday and promptly handed the bulk of their prize to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

Gazprom was widely expected to walk away with the spoils, which include a $4bn stake in its own oil company Gazprom Neft and two gas production firms, but did not register to take part in the auction, so the big question was who would help it by doing its bidding.

Just before the bidding opened Gazprom said it had an option with Enineftegas, 60% owned by Eni and 40% by Enel, under which it could buy the Gazprom Neft stake and 51% in the gas firms if Enineftegas won. Gazprom’s monopoly on gas exports give it a tight hold over Russia’s gas reserves and analysts said it was very unlikely that the assets would go to anybody without Gazprom’s backing.

Eni and Enel’s winning bid secures them a rare foothold in Russia following months of talks with Gazprom, topped off by a phone conversation late on Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Relations between the two, warmed by Putin’s visit to Italy last month, may draw even closer with a potential airline deal, since Aeroflot is bidding to take over Italy’s Alitalia.